Students at Sacred Hearts coping with grief one week after tragedy

Principal Betty White
Principal Betty White

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Students at Sacred Hearts Academy are still asking "why"?

One week after eighth-grader Saundra Cass and her mother, Kristine, were shot to death inside their Makiki home, more than a dozen bereavement counselors have helped students, faculty, and parents at Sacred Hearts cope with the tragedy.

"She was such a model student. The mother was such a model parent, and it's hard but we've pulled together and bonded together and we're going to get through it and we'll be stronger in the end" said Sacred Hearts Academy Principal Betty White.

Teachers underwent a half-day of crisis training before the students returned to class on Tuesday, but the week has clearly been emotional. The bereavement counselors did some role-playing with the teachers so they would be prepared to answer any and all of the students' questions when they returned to school on Tuesday.

White said a lot of students couldn't understand why the gunman took their classmates life.

"She didn't deserve this. What did she do to deserve this? … if he had a grievance against the mother, why did he have to shoot Saundra?"

The principal says faith and encouragement from Catholic advisers are getting them through.

"You've had years of religious classes, right? …our girls have gone to mass every first Friday for years and years. They have had prayers before class, and they said, 'now's the time to pull on them.'"

Last Friday, former Hawaii National Guardsman Clayborne Conley killed the mother and daughter, and then turned the gun on himself. Friends say Kristine Cass and Conley had dated in the past, but she ended the relationship. Conley was an Iraq war veteran and reportedly suffered from post-traumatic stress.

Sacred Hearts says it plans to hold a memorial next week for the Casses as a way to bring closure for the students.

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